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Critical and Creative Reflective Essay #1

According to Sigal, “…the narrative of the bulk of Latin American history of sexuality is far too wedded to the redemptive and reconstructive [a focus on sin and redemption]… Latin America provides an example that will allow us to critique the limits of this framework, and instead suggest that a particular reading practice that focuses on colonialism, culture, and power will provide a more adequate lens for studying sexualities in various periods around the globe…. As historians of sexuality, we most often work to find identity and community based on our imaginary vision: we see the current configuration of sexuality as a transhistorical, transcultural category that will remain stable at the end of our telling the story. It is the responsibility of historians of sexuality to destabilize our current notions of sexuality; our inevitable failure to comprehend indigenous meanings (themselves always unstable) will allow us to critique our notions of the sexual.” (Sigal 2009: 1348)

1. In one page, what are some of the major difficulties facing historians studying sexualities and genders? What role does colonialism and power play in (mis)shaping our frameworks of analysis? How do historians contribute to these (mis)representations?

2. In one page, discuss the role that archives play in the study of genders and sexuality in Latin American history. What archives are available? What are their strengths and limitations? What role do colonial mediators (clergy, inquisition judges, medical experts, etc.) play in shaping the narratives of genders and sexualities? 3. In two pages, examine the ways that scholars can “read against the grain” or “destabilize notions of gender and sexuality” to provide different readings of archival materials. Drawing from your critical reading of Catalina de Erauso’s statement in Lieutenant Nun, provide examples of alternative ways of reading the gender and sexuality history of Spain and colonial Latin America. How can such a reading challenge a literal and uncritical reading of the sources?

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